Bruins win despite every reason to lose

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Bruins win despite every reason to lose

BOSTON In years past this might have been a game that the Bruins let slip right through their gloved fingers.

Playing their third game in four nights and their first back-to-back tilt of the hockey season at the tail end of November meant there were plenty of tired legs allalong the Boston bench.

That much was obvious when the Bruins cut morning skate short after a scant 15 minutes and instead hoped to focus their energies toward Saturday night. Its times exactlylike these when most people expected the Stanley Cup hangover issue to become a problem for a team that tapped deep into their energy reserve last spring.

Add in the fact the Bruins were coming off the sudden demise of their long 10-game winning streak at the hands of the Red Wings and the mediocre Winnipeg Jets were coming to town and it had all of the expectations of a hockey team putting out an effort equivalent to the sad trombone sound.

Coming off an always dramatic road game at the Bell Centre against the Habs, the revenge game in Buffalo for the Milan LucicRyan Miller flap of two weeks ago and a Thanksgiving Showdown with the Red Wings, Saturday night hockey against the Peg didnt exactly scream out big game. In factthe Jets -- even with their newfangled logo and Blake Wheeler managing to stay on-side all night --defined "small game" for the Bruins in every sense, and they'd always played down to that kind of competition in the past.

You know sometimes youre not going to always have great legs, said Zdeno Chara. Its the season, its the schedule. You are not always going to feel great. But the bottom line is if you dont have your legs you have to move the puck. Thats what we were focusing onmoving the puck.

All of those factors wrapped into one would have combined for a lackluster result over the last few seasons with these Bruins, but theyve learned their lessons well. The Stanley Cup champions netted their 11th win in the last 12 games with a solid, gritty 4-2 victory over Winnipeg at the Garden on Saturday night.

Things didnt look good early when Joe Corvo failed to get back on defense quickly enough, and left Dennis Seidenberg hanging on a 2-on-1 converted by Evander Kane in one of his game-high nine shots on net. Then Dustin Byfuglien took advantage of a play misread by David Krejci, and fired a puck from the right point to make it a quick two goal lead for Winnipeg.

But the Bruins managed to snare their 14th win of the season despite falling behind early by two goals when it appeared their skating legs had already hit Faneuil Hall for the evening.

It was our third game in four days. We definitely wanted to keep our intensity alive. We have been solid this month so far, said Daniel Paille, who set up the game-tying goal in the second period with some dogged penalty kill work. I dont think we want to let that go. I think we all felt good about it. I think we realized that we can do a lot more. Winnipeg came out ready for us and once we were settled we played a lot better.

It was appropriate that there were third and fourth line heroes all over the ice for the Bruins in a game where they needed a little of that extra something. Chris Kelly is the picture of hustle, smarts and honest-to-goodness effort, and he showed all three while unveiling a little skill too with a pair of second period goals that represented the game-tier and the game-winner.

The first was set up by Paille doing yeomans work on the penalty kill, and was a glorified tap-in after Kelly hustled toward the front of the net after Rich Peverley drove through most of the Jets' skaters toward the net. The second was another third line hustle play with Benoit Pouliot screaming into the offensive blue line to corral a loose puck, and then firing a cross-ice pass to Kelly for a one-timer that eluded Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

It is all kinds of perfect that the Bruins have proven to be unbeatable when theyre getting contributions from the bottom six forwards, and the Bs are now 7-0-0 on the season when Kelly lights the lamp.

But thats what needs to happen on those nights when there is no crispness or snap to Bostons game. Claude Julien took a rare early game timeout when the Bruins dropped down by two goals in the first period, the unsung offensive players produced and the Bruins found a way to win one of those games that didnt have the weightiness of some of their recent tilts.

I think that's one of our strengths is we have four lines that are consistent, all can contribute offensively and all can play defense, said Kelly. I think you can have every line out there if, last minute up by a goal and all the guys are going to get the job done. I don't know any other team that can do that.

The maddening inconsistencies of the Bruins were always part of the team package prior to winning the Cup, and it was assumed they would still be there after hoisting Lord Stanley over their head.

But the Bruins have gone about proving theyre a different team after their gloriousencounter with the Cup, and Saturday night was another shining example of just how far they've come as a hockey group.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.